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Portal 2 – Game Review

Portal 2

Developed & Published by: Valve
Rating: E10+
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3 and Mac/PC

Portal 2. Wow. Just wow. In a proof of concept, Valve shows that the innovative gameplay and story of the original Portal (originally released as part of a bundle) can carry itself as a standalone release. The sequel is an unblemished masterpiece that lives up to the hype and fully dispels the worries of fans. With a fantastic single player campaign and story, Portal 2 is by far one of my favorite games this year, if not of all time.

The game starts with the main character from the first installment, Chell, waking up in cryo-chamber 0 (disguised as a tacky motel room) deep in the bowels of the Aperture Science Testing Facility. After an extended rest, Chell is woken up by a robot named Wheatley. Chell finds that the facility has fallen apart after her climactic battle when the rogue AI GLaDOS crippled the complex. Chell and Wheatley then attempt to escape the dying Aperture Labs, inadvertently re-activating GLaDOS. From there, shit goes down, and Chell is forced to begin testing again. In the co-op campaign players control Atlas and P-Body: two robots created specifically for testing.

[ad#longpost]In Portal 2, players create doorways with a special portal gun. Chell has to solve puzzles by traveling through these titular openings to get to an exit in each level. This deceptively simple premise is more than enough to get the player through the game without getting tedious. Over time, more elements (light bridges, jump panels, lasers, robotic turrets etc) are added to the mix keeping the player on their toes. There is no inventory, what is provided in a room is all you have. The HUD is a simple targeting reticle, with lit slivers telling the player what portals are deployed. In co-op, the two players have to work together with their own individual portals to solve puzzles. The players communicate by headset and markers placed by each other through the level. Overall, both the single player and co-op campaigns have a gradual learning curve that both eases new players in, but yet avoids tedium for those more experienced.

The story is in a word: fantastic. The character development is compelling and well-paced. The immersion created by the character interaction around you is superb, and of course, the whole thing oozes with black comedy. The dialogue between characters is great, and often times you forget Chell is a mute. The companions that follow you through the game express Chell’s feelings for her, and this never feels forced. I believe this is due to, in part, the voice acting. Stephen Merchant and Ellie McLain make the game, as Wheatley and GLaDOS respectively. The characters have an excellent rapport, and the acting makes the player change opinions about them flawlessly. While the game is still short–you can finish the single player in about 8-10 hours–the story is full and satisfying; I was laughing constantly.

I really have nothing bad to say about Portal 2. In my opinion, it is perfect. I’ve had more fun playing this game than I’ve had playing anything else in recent memory. This is by far the best game so far of this year. Definitely pick it up.

1 comment

  • There are few times in my life when I’ve been completely unable to wipe a big, stupid grin off my face. My 21st birthday, the night I proposed to my wife, and the several hours I spent with Portal 2’s single-player campaign. Seriously, I had this moment of self-awareness about 10 minutes into the game as I realized, ‘whoa…I have been smiling and giggling like a schoolgirl since I fired this up.’

    It’s true. I’ll be hard-pressed to say anything negative about this game, with the exception of the fact that I could’ve handled about 12 more hours of it. Playing through (at least) a few more times will have to suffice. Seriously, if the original Portal stole your heart like it did mine with its kooky, endearing little microcosm world of puzzle solving and cute robots, the sequel will simply amplify that feeling of little cartoon hearts fluttering from your chest.

    Valve added layers of depth the story we only scratched the surface of in the last game, and came up with some supremely devilish new gameplay devices with which to solve more puzzles. I won’t ruin anything, but that little endorphine rush you get when you find the solution and exit to each room may be one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever experienced in gaming. One minute you’ll think of completely giving up hope, and feel like Einstein when you finally reason out the steps that need to be taken to get that door open.

    Oh, and there’s a cooperative mode to top it all off, which I haven’t even touched yet (though I hear it’s equally as brilliant as the single-player game). Isn’t life grand? Yes, it is. Now, let’s go do some science.